Barrymore, Lionel


Oscar-winning actor best known as villain Mr. Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life”!



Type: Signed card
Description: (b. Lionel Herbert Blyth, 1878-1954) American stage, screen and radio actor as well as a film director. He won the 1931 Best Actor Academy Award for his performance in A Free Soul, and is known to modern audiences for the role of villainous Mr. Potter in Frank Capra’s 1946 It’s a Wonderful Life.  He is also particularly remembered as Ebenezer Scrooge in annual broadcasts of A Christmas Carol during his last 2 decades, and for playing Dr. Leonard Gillespie in MGM’s 9 “Dr. Kildare” films, a role he reprised in a further 6 films focusing solely on Gillespie and in a radio series titled The Story of Dr. Kildare.

He was the son of actors Georgiana Drew Barrymore and Maurice Barrymore (b. Herbert Arthur Chamberlayne Blyth), elder brother of Ethel and John Barrymore, uncle of John Drew Barrymore and Diana Barrymore, great-uncle of Drew Barrymore.  He appeared with his grandmother Louisa Lane Drew on tour and in a stage production of The Rivals at 15.  He found success on stage in character roles and continued to act, although he still wanted to be a painter and also to compose music. He appeared on Broadway in his early twenties with uncle John Drew Jr., and The Mummy and the Hummingbird (1902) won him critical acclaim; The Other Girl in 1903–04 was a long-running success for him. After WW I, he had several successes on Broadway and established his reputation as a dramatic and character actor. After appearing in Man or Devil in 1926, he signed a film contract with MGM and after the 1927 advent of sound films, he never again appeared on stage.

Barrymore joined Biograph Studios 1909 and began to appear in leading roles by 1911 in films directed by D. W. Griffith. In 1915, he co-starred with Lillian Russell in a movie called Wildfire, one of Russell’s few film appearances. He acted in more than 60 silent films with Griffith. Before formation of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1924, Barrymore forged a good relationship with Louis B. Mayer early on at Metro Pictures. In 1925, he left New York for Hollywood, signing a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1926. His first talking picture was The Lion and the Mouse; his stage experience allowed him to excel in delivering dialogue in sound films.

In 1929, he returned to directing films, incl. the controversial His Glorious Night with John Gilbert, Madame X starring Ruth Chatterton, and The Rogue Song, Laurel and Hardy’s 1st color film. He was credited with being the first director to move a microphone on a sound stage. He won an Oscar playing an alcoholic lawyer in A Free Soul (1931), after being considered in 1930 for Best Director for Madame X. He played alongside Greta Garbo in the 1931 film Mata Hari.

During the 30s & 40s, he became stereotyped as a grouchy but sweet elderly man in such films as Grand Hotel (1932, with John Barrymore), Little Colonel (1935, with Shirley Temple and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson), Captains Courageous (1937), You Can’t Take It With You (1938), On Borrowed Time (1939, with Cedric Hardwick), Duel in the Sun (1946), and Key Largo (1948). His last film appearance was a cameo in Main Street to Brooklyn, a 1953 MGM musical comedy in which sister Ethel also appeared.

Barrymore’s performance in Captains Courageous in 1937 was one of the last times he would be seen standing and walking unassisted. Afterward, Barrymore could get about for a short period of time on crutches even though he was in great pain. After 1938, he used a wheelchair exclusively and never walked again but did stand for short periods of time such as at his brother’s 1942 funeral.

Barrymore also composed music, from solo piano pieces to large-scale orchestral works. He received 2 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960, one for motion pictures and one for radio and was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame with siblings Ethel and John.

2 ¾ x 4 ¼ signed card with 1934 envelope with collector’s notes on it.

Condition: Very good

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